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Friday, June 10, 2016

F3 The Fight for More Funding

Dark Winds
            Virginia Meyer scrunched her forehead as she pored over the pages, feeling a migraine whenever she tried to understand the words. Next to her, Terry Sandhurst, the Chairman of their committee, did the same. Finally, she closed the 300 page proposal for Frontier.
            “Just tell us, Jim, why do you need a second Argo launch?”
            Jim Macomber leaned forward. “Frontier is too big. We’ve combined nearly every other deep space mission into this one satellite because we need it more than the others. The gravity engine, kinetic struts, the deep space monitoring observatory, and the nanosat launcher.”
            “Nanosat launcher? I don’t think I read that far,” Terry started paging through.
            “It’s in the addendums, a last minute idea by two of my team. They want to begin to map out the dark energy winds, hopefully to get a better understanding of what’s going on. Each nanosat consists of a sail, a power source, and a transmitter, that’s it. All it does is ping back to the monitoring observatory with its identity, which will relay the signals back here. Before, the monitoring observatory was going to be more passive, acting as a relay booster for the covered wagon.”
            “Covered wagon?” Virginia said.
            Jim shrugged. “That’s just a placeholder name. Frontier . . . Covered Wagon? We’ll come up with something suitably inspiring later.”
            “I thought we had settled on Frontier?” Terry said.
            “The entire vehicle is called Frontier, like Apollo 11 had the Columbia command module and the Eagle lander.”
            “Ah, I see. So, you were saying?”
            “The observatory will now have a much larger role, that of coordinating the information from the nanosats, and the nanosat launcher, too. We just can’t fit everything on one Argo launcher. The plan is to have two Argos launch. We will remotely pilot them to connect in orbit.” He interlaced his fingers of both hands. “Then the combined vehicle will head out to the edge of the solar system as planned.”
            “So you want to double the cost of the launch? I’m sorry, no.” Terry shut his copy of the proposal with finality. “We have already appropriated millions for this project.”
            “Mr. Chairman, please let me—”
            “No, Jim. I’m sorry.”
            “Terry,” Virginia said. “Let the man talk. You agreed that this project is probably the most important since the first moon landing.”
            “All right. Make your sales pitch, Jim.”
            “We’re not doubling the cost. We need two Argos launches, but only one of them is a type III. The other is a type I, which we usually reserve for crew, but it can also take a payload module. Launching a type I is half the cost of a type III. We need an extra 20 million. That’s all.”
            Sandhurst gave a bemused smile to Virginia. “Only 20 million. We could do a lot of good for 20 million.”
            “We have more in pork on a bill choosing the next stamp. We can do this, and we are doing a lot of good.”
            “I suppose so. Still, it will be a hard sell. Jim, can you get by with anything less?”
            Jim put a hand through his hair. Clearly he had already trimmed the numbers as close as he could, but he gave a sideways nod. “We can scrape by with 18.”
            “Okay. We’ll get your appropriation, but please choose better names for the craft, and quickly.”
            “Deal, Terry,” Jerry smiled, stood, and extended his hand.

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